The new president of Venezuela’s opposition legislature is confident the United States will back the body by continuing to protect foreign assets like oil refiner Citgo Petroleum from creditors, she said on Friday.
Dinorah Figuera, a 61-year-old doctor from the Primero Justicia party, was chosen to lead the opposition’s national assembly earlier this month as it prepares to pick a presidential candidate and pushes for renewed talks with the government.
Figuera, who lives in exile in Spain, told Reuters in an interview that the assembly’s new triumvirate of women leaders will be able to confront President Nicolas Maduro, whom the United States and other countries consider a dictator, and protect assets like Citgo (PDVSAC.UL) and nearly $2 billion in gold at the Bank of England from creditors.
Maduro has accused the opposition of working with the United States and other countries to stage coups against him.
This month the U.S. Treasury Department extended protection for Citgo until April and Figuera said it could be renewed.
“The United States supports the National Assembly, England supports the National Assembly … we have had conversations and that (Citgo) licence can be renewed for more months,” Figuera said.
Venezuela owes more than $60 billion to creditors and is facing legal judgements over nationalizations and delayed bond payments.
Opposition lawmakers have appointed a committee to manage assets abroad.
Venezuela traditionally has only one legislature, but currently has two parallel bodies – one of government-allied lawmakers and another for the opposition.
Figuera, who moved to Spain in 2018, aims to “stitch together” the unity of the opposition, after sometimes fierce infighting between its largest parties.
As with other opposition lawmakers, she does not receive a salary for her role.
She is in the process of transferring her medical credentials so cannot yet practice as a doctor and makes ends meet by caring for an 87-year-old diabetic woman in Valencia, in southern Spain.
“I have received threats sent by people who know or have people near to Madurismo,” she said, referencing Maduro’s allies, and adding police confiscated the apartment and a car she still owned in Venezuela a few hours after she was appointed.
Though she lost her sister and mother to COVID-19 after leaving Venezuela, she still hopes to return one day.
“I have faith that we are going to move forward,” she said. “Dictatorships are not eternal.”